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Altercation With Photographer Won't Derail Priest's Rape Trial

April 11, 2002|ERIC BAILEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A defense attorney dropped an effort Wednesday to derail the rape and lewd conduct trial in Santa Rosa of a Roman Catholic priest accused a day earlier of assaulting a newspaper photographer outside court.

Chris Andrian, attorney for Donald Kimball, withdrew a motion for a mistrial after Judge Gayle Guynup polled jurors and determined that few if any had even heard that Kimball had been arrested on suspicion of the assault.

Kimball, 58, was jailed Tuesday for allegedly shoving a camera into the face of San Francisco Chronicle photographer Penni Gladstone as she tried to snap his picture in a courtroom hallway. He was released after posting $30,000 bail but is set to be arraigned today on assault charges.

Gladstone was snapping Kimball's picture as he left for a lunch recess because cameras were not allowed in the courtroom.

"He just came at me with his fist," she told Associated Press. "I saw the whole thing happening through the camera."

As about a dozen witnesses looked on, Kimball then allegedly grabbed the camera and threw it, hitting reporter Clark Mason of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Mason was not hurt.

Gladstone suffered a cut under her right eye and her glasses were broken. She went to a hospital for X-rays and a tetanus shot and was released.

Witnesses called out for help and bailiffs restrained Kimball, who was taken to the Sonoma County Jail.

For a time, the incident threatened to snowball into something that could derail the trial. One juror saw Kimball being escorted by bailiffs after the attack and told other jurors.

But after being questioned for an hour by the judge, Kimball's attorney was satisfied the incident would not color the verdict and pulled his request for a mistrial.

Kimball was a popular youth pastor who ran an outreach program that drew national attention with its mix of Top 40 music hits and Bible teachings.

He is charged with raping a 14-year-old girl behind the altar of a Santa Rosa chapel in 1977 and molesting a 13-year-old girl in 1981 at St. John's Rectory in Healdsburg.

Though not a practicing priest since 1990, Kimball has not been defrocked by the local diocese. He denies all charges. In recent years, he has remained active in a nonprofit religious organization that allows him access to young people.

Kimball's attorney has argued that the allegations are a mix of fantasy and questionable memories dredged up during therapy.

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